Exactly a year later comes the empirical validation of that skepticism. Virginia — presumed harbinger of the new realignment, having gone Democratic in ’08 for the first time in 44 years — went red again. With a vengeance. Barack Obama had carried it by six points. The Republican gubernatorial candidate won by 17 — a 23-point swing. New Jersey went from plus 15 Democratic in 2008 to minus 4 in 2009. A 19-point swing.
What happened? The vaunted Obama realignment vanished. In 2009 in Virginia, the black vote was down by 20 percent, the under-30 vote by 50 percent. And as for independents, the ultimate prize of any realignment, they bolted. In both Virginia and New Jersey they’d gone narrowly for Obama in ’08. This year they went Republican by a staggering 33 points in Virginia and by an equally shocking 30 points in New Jersey.
White House apologists will say the Virginia Democrat was weak. If the difference between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds was so great, how come when the same two men ran against each other statewide for attorney general four years ago the race was a virtual dead heat? Which made the ’09 McDonnell-Deeds rematch the closest you get in politics to a laboratory experiment for measuring the change in external conditions. Run them against each other again when it’s Obamaism in action and see what happens. What happened was a Republican landslide.
The Obama coattails of 2008 are gone. The expansion of the electorate, the excitement of the young, came in uniquely propitious Democratic circumstances and amid unparalleled enthusiasm for electing the first African-American president.
November ’08 was one-shot, one-time, never to be replicated. Nor was November ’09 a realignment. It was a return to the norm — and definitive confirmation that 2008 was one of the great flukes in American political history.